The Ward 2 primary for Missoula City Council takes place Tuesday, Sept. 9, with mail-in ballots being sent out Monday. The Missoulian asked each candidate to respond to 10 questions, and their answers are running through Sunday in the order in which they were received.
The candidates include Anita Green, Aylinn Inmon, Jack Rowan and Harlan Wells. Ward 2 includes the Westside neighborhood, North Reserve Street, areas around Mullan Road and Expressway, and Grant Creek.
The following are Inmon's responses.
Do you support the city’s use of urban renewal districts to help fund the redevelopment of blighted properties? Would you vote to extend the life of Urban Renewal District 3?
Yes I do support the URD because it allows for the city to develop Missoula with an intentional and strategic plan. I would have to look into the repercussions of extending the life of URD 3 as well as the necessity of it, but at this time I would support it. URD 3 has great potential to create housing and grow our economy for all Missoulians no matter age or socioeconomic status while retaining the culture that it created and maintains today. It’ll allow for Missoulians to stay central to Missoula rather than being pushed out to buy homes and having to commute back into town to work.
Do you support the city’s current focus on growing inward?
Yes, I do support the “focus inward” strategy. Growth is not only inevitable, it's a good thing for a city like Missoula. Growth means our university’s enrollment is strong, new businesses are being established or are moving to our area, families have decided to raise their kids in our friendly neighborhoods and retirees have chosen to settle down in our stimulating and vibrant community.
Growth without guidance would be a huge mistake, however, and could disenfranchise and disempower our community, rather than help it grow. Focusing inward means developing brownfields like the former mill adjacent to the Osprey stadium and Silver Park, converting parking lots and derelict buildings into new residences and businesses, and connecting Missoula’s neighborhoods with an ever-improving network of public transportation, bike and walking routes.
As a native Missoulian, I would love to support a strategy that develops our city as a place that people can thrive within rather than having to move to the outer limits to get by.
City taxes increased 5.7 percent this year, which followed a 3.8 percent tax increase last year. Some residents feel taxes are too high. As you’d be involved in the budgeting process, how would you balance the need to maintain and grow services with the cost of paying for them?
I would try to be critical of services already in place as well as new proposals for services, and weigh their benefit and outcome against what will do the best good for all of Missoula along with those the services directly affect. I would strive to make the most out of every taxpayer dollar in order to ensure maximum benefit is achieved for the good of the community.
Missoula Municipal Court is asking for a second judge and more room, and the police department needs an evidence storage facility. What would you do to resolve the needs, knowing voters have resisted the cost of paying for them? Would you support funding a law and justice center?
I see the need for more judicial services as well as a storage facility for the police department as necessary to address crime in Missoula, but understand why voters would resist paying for it, especially with the increasing tax burden many homeowners already face. I would look into reallocating funds from fees collected in the courts or other programs or if necessary apply for grants or subsidies from the state to help cover the cost after first looking at the rest of the financial needs of the city and weighing the necessity of these costs in order to prioritize what the voters want and need.
What do you see as the top three issues facing Ward 2? And what would you do to see that they’re addressed?
After knocking on doors and talking to voters of Ward 2, I believe some of the top issues are community safety, increasing accessibility and workforce development. Community safety in the sense of seriously addressing the problems stemming from the abuse of hard drugs such as methamphetamine or heroin, and petty crime in Missoula. I could see increasing police presence in Ward 2 being beneficial as voters in the Westside have already spoken to its effectiveness.
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I also would want to increase transparency and accessibility to programs that address the drug problems in our city in order to help those find help that need it. The Poverello is already doing its part to have community advocates to help establish trust and security between them and the neighborhood. I also believe that accessibility in means of transportation options are crucial to fostering a healthy community. Finding ways to ensure more Missoulians have access to Mountain Line, safe trails or safe bike paths that are integrated well within our already established roadways is key to bringing the community together.
Lastly, workforce development. Over 40 percent of Missoula is employed in low-wage jobs, specifically in the retail or the service industry. Many of these workers live on the Westside. I would like to see protections and benefits for these workers because without protections, they are treated as if they are expendable which is no way to foster a community.
Benefits such as living wage, paid sick leave or fair scheduling practices would make it so those working in low-wage jobs could stop living paycheck to paycheck and instead actually establish themselves in Missoula in order to have a stronger community.
What do you see as the role of a City Council member? Describe your ability to lead when necessary and compromise when its appropriate?
I see my role as a City Council member to represent Ward 2 voters while also balancing the needs for the rest of Missoula to advocate for positive smart growth of our already prosperous community.
I will not shy away from difficult or unpopular conversations or decisions that have the potential to benefit Missoula in the long run. Personally, I identify as a young woman of color who grew up in a family of low socioeconomic status. Being a part of those populations, any one of them, can create barriers to leading a healthy fruitful life.
I have learned that many people who identify these ways often feel disempowered or disenfranchised by those in a position of power, especially when it comes to civic engagement. I will strive to embrace transparency and accessibility in order to ensure all people are being heard and therefore advocated for in my role as a council member. I have taken a lead in campaigns that were not easy or popular, but I never compromised my work ethic or choices in order to make it easier on myself. I pledge to do the same as an elected official and will compromise when necessary only if by doing so those actions and decisions will not hurt or ignore the needs of Missoulians.
What responsibility does a City Council member have in terms of establishing and maintaining an effective working relationship with the media?
I believe it should be a priority of a City Council member to be accessible to their constituents and meet them whether they are in their chosen media or communication platform. Whether that be print, radio, phone calls, emails or social media outlets, all are important means of communication between constituents and their decision-makers. It's absolutely a responsibility of City Council members to establish and maintain effective working relationships with media, no matter how one may personally feel about that outlet. If voters are utilizing it then the City Council members should, too.
Some members of City Council say the public doesn’t participate in the governing process, and some members of the public say the City Council doesn’t listen to their voice. What would you do to foster public participation and ensure all voices in the community are heard?
I would strive to be as transparent and accessible to all Missoulians through all communication platforms. It is of course a big challenge, but in order to represent and hear all the voices, one must be accessible to all and meet them where they are. Through strong social media presence, consistent phone and email responses, I hope to create that accessibility. It’s a huge time commitment to be so accessible but absolutely necessary to be the responsible council member I hope to be.
How would you balance the needs of Ward 2 with the needs of the larger city?
I will listen to my fellow council members, as well as the needs of their voters in order to create mindful policies and recommendations that will benefit Missoula the most. Of course, I will stand strong as the elected official of Ward 2 in order to make sure their needs are heard and respected, but will expect and implore my fellow council members to do the same in order to reach a consensus on not only what will be best for our constituents, but the community as a whole.
Why do you want to run for City Council? What issues do you bring to the table?
I am running because I have lived my life breaking the cycle of silence that can sometimes create an apathetic blight within a community, the very same cycle that can ruin families or individuals. I have done so through active civic engagement within my community as a grassroots organizer and taking a stand against social injustices in my everyday life. I will take the lessons I learned by growing up the very product of Missoula programs and services – lessons of passion, empathy, dedication and perseverance – and listen to the people of my ward as well as the rest of Missoula to ensure a community that bolsters smart growth and prosperity among all its people and land.
I hope to advocate for a safer more prosperous community through smart development of affordable housing and integrated transit systems. I also hope to cultivate a culture that protects and empowers our working-class people through better workers’ rights and protections such as living wage or paid sick leave. I am also ready to take a strong stand against sexual assault and violence in our community through continued collaboration with groups and institutions already working to abolish sexual assault in Missoula as well as fostering innovation and creativity in programs and solutions to make it happen that much quicker.